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Friday, June 7, 2013


For Floridians we’re only week one into the hurricane season, and Tropical Storm Andrea made landfall yesterday.  As a trivia buff [I play on a trivia team every week], I did a search of the use of hurricanes/tropical storms in fiction, film and TV, and not surprisingly there are a fair number.

Think about it. A powerful storm that can be forecasted with an increasing sense of tension, dread and even doom.  The slow but inevitable pace as it approaches the shore where it can impact on thousands of people.  Actions taken, crises met, lives changed: such rich fodder for a writer.  

William Shakespeare certainly makes use of one as a plot element in The Tempest, said to be based on a real hurricane.  Joseph Conrad in Typhoon employs a cyclone for characterization with the ship captain insisting on sailing into the storm.  A hurricane kills key characters in Porgy & Bess, changing the direction of the story.  Another storm leads to a rescue mission in Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger.  Clive Cussler frequently uses storms in his books; in Cyclops, a storm strands the protagonists on an island used by Soviets as an electronic surveillance post. Oh my, can we say tension?

Not only can the storm can even be personalized by the name the author gives it, the name can also play to the venue.  The comic name ‘Flozell’ is given to a storm appearing in the show ’Family Guy’.  Of course, there is “The Perfect Storm”, the nameless horror that took the crew of the Andrea Gail.

A hurricane can be used to stage a crime, impede the hunt for a criminal, cover an alien invasion or be the black moment when all appears lost for the courageous heroine.  

What are some of your favorite books or shows featuring a storm? [and I do believe some should be by NYUS authors... :)]

Carol Stephenson
Escape to Compelling, Heart-Racing Stories
Website; Facebook; Twitter

P.S.  On a serious, pragmatic note, here are a few tips for hurricane season.

1) Backup your work, whether using Dropbox or some other alternative storage.  When Hurricane Wilma struck, I sent a flash drive with my works-in-progress to my sister.

2) Check on your stockpiles. Now’s the time to make a list and start buying over a period of time.  Batteries, flashlights, water, food staples, waterproofed matches, butane lighters.  I maintain tubs of supplies in my hurricane closet. In the event part of the house is damaged, by spreading my supplies throughout the house, I hope some will be undamaged.   Once hurricane season ends in November, if there’s something I can’t use, I donate it to the food drives.

3) Construction garbage bags. Even the lower category hurricanes will make a mess of the yard. It’s amazing how your neighbor’s messy tree ends up dumping its branches on your yard.

4) Have an emergency plan with your family. If separated, where should you go or send a message? Power lines will go down; cell phone towers will become inoperable.  How are you going to find each other or send word that you’re safe?

5) On my ‘to acquire list’ this year from my tornado alley friends, a helmet. While I plan to place a mattress in my safe closet, I think wearing a helmet is one smart idea.

6) If you have a generator, test drive it ahead of time. It’s a machine. It can decide not to work at the worst time. Speaking of generators, please don’t use it in the garage and/or inside the house.  They make extension cords. The risk of someone stealing the generator isn’t worth you’re losing your life due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

7) My most cherished hurricane supply: a battery-operated TV. Being able to watch the storm bands and knowing they would soon pass kept my sanity during Hurricanes Francis, Jeanne, and Wilma as I listened to the wind howl and things go creak and bump.






Maureen A. Miller said...

Hi Miss Carol. Be careful down there. My family is driving up from Florida today. A weekend full of amusement parks, museums and boat rides ahead...if Mother Nature holds up.

I love books set against storms. Always did. I've watched the Perfect Storm about 80000 times. It's not because it's a good movie...I just love the scenery. And sadly, I don't mean Clooney. :)

Wynter Daniels said...

I'm right there with you, Carol. We also have a flashlight/radio combo that you crank for a few seconds to power up for about half an hour - awesome to save precious batteries during power outages.

Anne Marie Becker said...

Great topic, Carol! I love when Mother Nature becomes a character in the stories. :) Heat wave knocks out the power? Rain storm strands you at that scary house on the hill? Torando bearing down on your town?

Mother Nature likes to wreak havoc once in a while - such a great tension-maker.

As for movies I've enjoyed that have that element...Twister and Clue are the only ones coming to mind at the moment, but I'm certain there are so many more!

Marcia King-Gamble said...

I was born in the middle of a hurricane and moved to Florida just a few months before Hurricane Andrew struck. August 24th is actually my birthday. No wonder some consider me a tempest in a teapot.

Love the blog and love your hurricane tips. We might be able to use them today.

Toni Anderson said...

Great post, Carol. I can't imagine being in a hurricane although I used to live on east coast of Scotland and we had a lot of gales. I do remember getting on a ferry to the Isle of Man the day after the UK had a hurricane. Can you say 'green'?

CAPE FEAR uses a storm brilliantly.

Allison Chase said...

My favorite book from childhood is A Wrinkle in Time, which starts out, "It was a dark and stormy night." lol. There's nothing like a good storm to set an ominous mood, and nature can be an awesome villain - no hesitation, no remorse...

BTW, I have never thought of wearing a helmet during a storm, but it's not a bad idea!

Traci said...

Love this post, Carol - and it's still storming!!!! I appreciate the reminders for what I need to have in my emergency kit.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Great post, Carol, and great tips. We don't worry about gales or hurricanes here. We worry about forest fires in the summer and the killing cold in winter. With the cold (minus 40 is standard), you don't want the power to go out. That's our greatest vulnerability. With forest fires, as long as there's a road open, you can get out. With no power in winter, you'd better be friends with someone who has a wood stove...

Carol Stephenson said...

Maureen, LOL on the George Clooney!

Carol Stephenson said...

Oo, Wynter. I don't have a crank battery/radio. I'll take a look at it.

Carol Stephenson said...

Anne Marie, I admit to watching Twister every spring. Love that movie.

Carol Stephenson said...

Marcia, I didn't know you were born in the middle of a hurricane! Your poor mother must have been terrified.

Carol Stephenson said...

Toni, gales count as storms for me. Cape Fear is another great example of how a storm can build the tension.

Carol Stephenson said...

Allison, I forgot about how the Wrinkle in Time began. One of my all time fav childhood books.

Carol Stephenson said...

Marcelle, a forest fire would scare me more than anything. At least with a hurricane you can prepare and batten down the hatches.

Nancy J. Cohen said...

Good reminders, Carol. I like your idea of sprinkling supplies throughout the house just in case. Where did you get the portable TV? We had one years ago and used it during Wilma but we got rid of it. Now we have a crank radio if it still works.

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